LAS VEGAS Frank Canova describes the Que ProReader launched at the Consumer Electronics Show Thursday (Jan. 7) as a "very, very thin sandwich with many layers."
Frank Canova Vice President of Product Engineering, Plastic Logic
The vice president of product engineering at Plastic Logic told EE Times the story behind the design of the potentially ground-breaking e-book. He also gave us a virtual tour of its internals and shared his thoughts on the state and future of mobile consumer design in an interview on the CES show floor.
The Que ProReader aims to create a new category the company describes as a paper replacement for business professionals. It is the first product from Plastic Logic, formed in 2000 to commercialize organic electronics technology developed by two Cambridge University academics.
The company decided to apply its technology to a display, creating a very thin, low cost and low power module. Rather than sell the display to the merchant market, it has opted to use it as part of its secret sauce in a range of products with the ProReader its first to hit the market.
Versions of the e-book for students and other demographic groups will follow in the short term. In the long term, the startup backed by luminaries such as Hermann Hauser—a co-founder of ARM Ltd.--has many ideas for other new categories of products it could enable with its organic electronics.
Plastic Logic showed its first prototype of the system at a conference two years ago, not long after Canova joined the company from his previous job designing the LiveScribe pen. Previously Canova worked with Jeff Hawkins to design the Palm Pilot and with Steve Wozniak to design GPS products at startup Wheels of Zeus.
The job of heading up a team to design a device to replace paper for business professionals appealed to Canova.
"Success for me is to see people change the way they work and not need to print out tress of paper," he said. "To be able to create a very green product is to me very satisfying."
But initial trials with potential customers showed the first prototype needed a major redesign to get thinner and more powerful. The initial CPU was scrapped in favor of an 800 MHz Marvell Armada—as much as four times more muscular than the first chip--and the device was shaved down to be about a third of an inch thick at its center tapering down to just 4mm at the edges.
A video from the CES launch of the ProReader is below.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.